We love spey fishing. We also know that spey fishing can be a little intimidating when you first dip your toe in.
It shouldn’t be! Spey fishing is just another fun way to fish. It’s not better or worse or harder or easier or simpler or more complicated than ‘normal’ fly fishing.
Today we present the answers to 9 basic questions about spey fishing.
Got any other questions? We’d love to help – leave us a comment and we’ll do our best to answer.
9 Questions About Spey Fishing You Were Afraid to Ask
- What is Skagit casting? Skagit casting is a type of spey casting that was developed on and around the Skagit River in Washington State. Skagit casting uses fairly short, fairly heavy lines that are good for casting big flies in big sections of river. In the Pacific Northwest it’s the most popular form of spey casting, as of 2013 at least.
- How do you say ‘Skagit’? The ‘a’ is short and the ‘g’ sounds like a ‘j’. Start with the word ‘scab’. Drop the ‘b’. Then say the word ‘jet’ but replace the ‘e’ with a short ‘i’ sound.
- What’s a polyleader? It’s a coated, tapered leader used mainly in Scandi casting (more on that right below). They come in different sink rates, just like sinktips do. ‘Polyleader’ is the term that Airflo uses; ‘Versileader’ is how Rio says it. More on Polyleaders here.
- What is Scandi casting? Scandi is short for Scandinavian. It’s a type of spey casting that generally uses lines that are a little longer and a little ‘thinner’ than Skagit casting, and it’s more appropriate with smaller flies. More on the difference between the two here.
- Which hand goes on top? Usually, right handed casters have their right hand on top. Some anglers (who are more coordinated than we are) can fish with either hand on top.
- What’s a ‘Poke’? Poke is short for the Perry Poke, which is a Skagit-style spey cast. It involves ‘dumping’ your line on the water in front of you before you cast, so it looks pretty strange the first time you see it. Here are a couple of clips of the master of the Perry Poke, Ed Ward.
- Why do you make all those extra moves in your cast? Most spey casts involve a couple of steps and it might seem like there’s a bunch of wasted time and energy compared to just a simple forward and back cast. The early steps in a spey cast are just there to get your line and your fly in the right position for the final forward stroke in the spey cast, which is really just a big roll cast.
- Why are you always talking about ‘grains’? Different types of spey casting use different weights of lines, even on the same rod. There’s also a lot of personal preference in which weight line goes on which rod. So it’s often not as simple as saying ‘Buy a 7 weight Skagit line for your 7 weight rod’. Lots of modern line systems – especially Skagit systems – have totally abandoned the idea of calling a line a ‘7 weight’ or an ‘8 weight’. Instead they refer to the actual weight of the head, in grains (15.4 grains is 1 gram). It sounds more complicated than it is – it’s really just a simpler way of talking about lines, by saying how much they actually weigh.
- Should I try it? Yes, you should. It’s really fun and there’s no reason to be intimidated. We’d recommend taking a casting lesson on your first day – both to learn the fundamentals and to make sure your rod and line are set up right. If you’d like a recommendation on who to contact about a lesson in your area, leave us a comment below and we’ll point you in the right direction!
The ‘a’ is short and the ‘g’ sounds like a ‘j’. Start with the word ‘scab’. Drop the ‘b’. Then say the word ‘jet’ but replace the ‘e’ with a short ‘i’ sound.
Made me laugh and laugh
try this: http://tts.imtranslator.net/QVkn
Chuck Milewski says
I just purchased my first spey outfit. I am interested in lessons to avoid starting off on the wrong foot. I live in Anch, Ak
Hi Chuck, welcome to the world of spey! Drop the guys at Mossy’s Fly Shop a line – they’re definitely your best bet for spey instruction around Anchorage.
Have fun with it!
chuck milewski says
Mike has been a big help in getting me started in my quest to become a spey rod fisherman. I did catch my first steelhead on my spey rod despite horrible technique.
Mike is always willing to answer my questions. I’m hoping for a few more attempts to get in one good spey cast before the H2O gets hard.
I need all the help I can get.
Sounds great Chuck. Congrats on that first steelhead!
What flies are most popular for spey fishing for King salmon and rainbow trout? I’d like to tie some.
For early run kings I like Glo Bugs (egg patterns) tied with Mcfly foam, or bright colored yarn flies. For rainbows, in my opinion, it depends on the time of year. If you are fishing salmon rivers, flesh and egg patterns work, time contingent, sculpins, leaches are another good bet.
Thanks. What size hooks for these patterns? And would these be the patterns to choose for the Kanektok or Naknek? Thinking of going to one or both next season.
I live in Boulder Colorado, and would like to get some guidance in starting two-handed fly fishing. Know of any local instructors?
Welcome to the world of spey fishing – we’re happy to have you!
Drop a line to the guys at Trout’s Fly Fishing – http://troutsflyfishing.com/. They should be able to get you off on the right foot!
Have fun out there.
Larry Wirth says
A lot of excellent and valuabe info on this site not easily found other places. Many of your ideas and tips made a big difference in my Spey casting. I thank you for your effeort. Larry Wirth
Thanks so much Larry – we’re really glad to hear the information has been helpful!
Alain Laprade says
Preparing for the THCI, I’d like somes feedback on the following subject;
what are the differences of traditional slow action spey rod versus a modern fast action spey rod. What is the use of theses too?
I’ve found a lot of great info on this site so far and I have become even more fascinated with 2 handed casting. However, I live in south GA where it would almost seem unorthodox to go to a river, lake or pond with a 2 handed rod, but I am ok with thinking outside the box. My friend and I get enough funny looks as it is when we show up at a boat ramp with fly rods fishing for largemouth bass, panfish and jacks so I am okay a few more awkward glances. 🙂
However this is my question:
For my first two hand, should I go with a switch or go straight into a spey?
We do have some fairly large rivers here that are nearly impossible for me to fish most ares due to the lack of space for a back cast on single handed rods, so it seems like a spey or switch could be a great option?? It’s kind of hard to find much info on this because I won’t be chasing steelhead or salmon (would love to, but that kind of trip just doesn’t seem like it will ever fit a budget), so I welcome any advice or suggestions on this! 🙂
Kyle Shea says
Kyle here with Deneki. Great question! Whether to start with a switch or full spey rod for your first two-hander is a common question. I would greatly recommend starting with a full spey rod rather than a switch rod for your first two-hander. Switch rods are a great tool and extremely fun to fish, but they are much less forgiving than a full spey. Most other casting instructors would agree that a true spey rod is far easier to learn with.
You’re absolutely right, large rivers with little back casting room are the two-hander’s bread and butter! Also, although two-handed rods are often a tool of choice among salmon and steelhead anglers, they are a blast to fish for any species in moving water! We use them to swing flies for trout, smallmouth bass, you name it! We’ve even jumped Tarpon on them (although that was a bit of an uphill battle). One thing to remember is that a spey or switch rod is nothing more than a ‘fly delivery system.’ Once your fly is in the water, you’re just fishing! It’s just how it gets there is a little different!
I hope that is of some help, but please don’t hesitate to shoot us a note if you have any other questions! Thanks for reaching out and happy to hear you’re considering breaking into the world of two-hands!
Adam Rosson says
I live in Missouri. I am interested in learning to Skagit cast and am thinking about buying a switch rod. Would Skagit casting be a practical application in my state and would the switch rod be enough rod to cast a Skagit line. I guess what I am saying is where do I start? Thank you
Kyle Shea says
Kyle here with Deneki. Happy to hear you’re thinking about taking up skagit casting. We think its a super fun and effective way to fish. Switch rods are definitely enough ‘rod’ to cast skagit lines, particularly lines such as Airflo’s Skagit Switch which is a little shorter than standard skgait heads. However, if you are new to skagit casting, I would highly recommend learning on a full spey rod rather than a switch rod. The longer spey rod is more forgiving and typically much better for learning in the long run. Switch rods on the other hand are much less forgiving, requiring you to hit everything right to get the most out of it.
Something in the range of a 12 1/2 to 13 foot 7 weight spey is typically the most versatile rod for people learning. A great option is the Sage ONE 7126-4, or a more inexpensive but still great rod is the ECHO 3 7130-4 (just hit the link for each to see our full rundown on them).
Hope this helps Adam, thanks for reaching out to us!
Adam Rosson says
Thank you very for the info and I will definitely put the info to use. Do you possibly know of anyone in the Kansas City area that gives lessons on Skagit casting?
Heading back to Alaska in Aug for some salmon fishing on the Kenai and Russian Rivers. Have always used baitcasters and spinning reels on the rivers in the past but want to try fly fishing since it looks like a lot of fun and the fly fisherman always seem to catch a few more fish than I do. I’ve been reading up on the recommended fly rod & reel combos for fishing salmon on those rivers and now understand the need to match/balance reels, rods and line weights, etc. Trouble is I’m totally confused as to whether I should be starting out with a spey type rig as opposed to a standard (traditional?) one handed rod/reel setup. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Kyle Shea says
Kyle Shea here with Deneki. Glad to hear you are considering delving into the world of fly fishing! It certainly is an extremely fun way to fish and would highly recommend giving it a try.
While we love fishing two-handed (spey) rods, I would highly recommend starting off with a standard single hand set-up. Most fly anglers get started by learning to cast a single hand rod first, eventually migrating to a spey rig once they feel competent with a single hander. A standard single hand fly rod is far more versatile for different fisheries and fishing techniques as well, and will also help to teach you the fundamentals of fly casting that can be transferred over should you decide to pick up a two-hander. Spey casting requires a different style of casting, best learned with a solid foundation of single hand casting fundamentals.
While a spey rod is a great tool for some applications, for the beginning spey angler it is a bit limited to swinging flies (casting downstream and across and letting the fly swing through). While on the other hand, a single hand fly rod will open up nearly all techniques for fishing your fly.
Hope that helps and please don’t hesitate if you have any other questions. Best of luck out there!
Kirby Underdahl says
Spey intructors in the Great Falls, Montana area?
Email Hello , I am writing from Argentina , I’m starting with a Spey fishing and want to buy I recommend that cane , I have a swich But I feel q is very short.
So my question is simple, building my first Spey rod , and I was looking at lines Rio recomends between 600 and 650 grains for my rod, should I stay within those grains when I add my sink tip onto the line
or do I have wiggle room to throw heavier then that or lighter?
Kyle Shea says
A grain window of 600-650 is a recommendation that covers the broad spectrum of casters for that particular rod. Those who have a a quicker ‘giddy up’ in their stroke will most likely lean towards the lighter end of the grain window (600 gr in this case), while those with a slower, more relaxed stroke will likely prefer the heavier end of the grain window (650 grains). Grain recommendations such as those are made regardless of what sink tip you’re throwing, as the weight of the sink tip has very little to do with loading the rod. Its the weight of the line outside of the rod tip (that making the d-loop) that is used to load the rod. Most of the sink tip remains in the water, making the ‘anchor,’ thus is not a significant factor when matching the proper grain weight line to your. Hope that helps!
I bought my first switch rod this winter to use for Steelhead on the Brule Rive in Northern Wisconsin. I don’t see many two handsers around Minnesota or Wisconsin, but would like to get some casting lessons before I get the rod on the water. Do you know of any instructors in the Twin Cities or near Duluth, MN?
Dave Beede says
I’m in Fort Collins, Colorado and am interested in taking spey casting lessons. Do you have suggestions on who I might contact for lessons?
Web Editor says
Thanks for the note. I am not certain on Spey Specific classes in that area. I know there is a great fly shop in Fort Collins, St. Pete’s, maybe try reaching out to them? If not there are a lot of great spey casting videos online or books to help you build a foundation.
I hope that helps!